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Disasters and Normality

Nature has gone on a destructive rage lately in our hemisphere, and now the entirety of Puerto Rico is without power, the same hurricane caused it is headed toward the U.S. Virgin Islands that had already been largely wiped out by last week’s hurricane, and at least 250 people died in the second major earthquake in Mexico City in the past two weeks. After the devastation wrought on Texas and Florida from two other unusually large and intense hurricanes this month, catastrophe is starting seem commonplace.
The media are still all over it, complete with scary radar images, heartbreaking footage of downed buildings and bandaged people, and heroic stories of rescue and sacrifice, but by now they’re making more room for yet another Republican attempt at repealing and replacing Obamacare, the numerous noteworthy developments in the “Russia” story, and whatever else President Donald Trump might be up to. All sorts of historic disasters, both natural and man-made, are quickly becoming normalized.
One reason the latest natural catastrophes have been somewhat downplayed is that they happened in Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands, which are part of America but not among the 50 states, and in Mexico, which is not part of America at all. Americans have always tended to take scant interest in anything that happens beyond our borders, and in the age of “America First” and a clamor for building a giant wall along the southern border that tendency is stronger than ever. The country is still obliged to pay its share of the costly recovery efforts in its territories, though, and would do itself a much needed public relations favor by chipping in something to help out the Mexicans, so some attention should be paid.
Eventually nature will settle down for a while, although probably not for so long as those 12 blissful years North America enjoyed without any hurricanes at all until lately, and at that point all the man-made disasters will retake their rightful places on the front page and the top of the hour. We’ll hope that the recent disasters are not forgotten, that a few of the reporters will stay on the long enough to scrutinize both the recovery efforts and the preparations for the inevitable next time, and that no one regards it as normal for two of America’s most populous cities to be underwater and two its territories wiped out altogether. Here’s hoping, too, that people don’t start to regard all those man-made disasters as at all normal.

— Bud Norman

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What’s Not in the News

There’s not much in the news this time of year, what with all the newsmakers being off on their expensive vacations, so now is as good a time as any to take notice of what’s not there. In the eerie silence of the current news cycle we can’t help noticing that several important stories seem to have prematurely vanished.
That awful deal with the Iranian government regarding its nuclear weapons program has largely gone unmentioned since President Barack Obama announced it was done, even though that’s not the end of the story. So far as we can tell nothing has yet been signed by either side, there’s no still public agreement about what’s been agreed to, even the United Nations admits that Iran’s recent inter-continental ballistic missile test violated any understanding of agreement, despite the administration’s infuriating pleas for leniency on behalf of the totalitarian theocracy, and Congress is wisely proceeding with fresh new sanctions that disagree with the whole awful deal. Given that the deal makes an Iranian bomb inevitable, which in turn would set off a nuclear arms race in the Middle East and thus make Armageddon imminent, one would think this would be getting more attention.
Obamacare is just as bad as ever, too, although that’s no longer news. By now the public knows that it won’t be getting an average $2,500 a year savings and won’t be able to keep its plans or doctors and that all the other promises that were made won’t be kept, but that was already obvious when the public went ahead and re-elected Obama back in ’12 and the media are no longer obligated to mention of that. They are forced to mention that premiums are going up, more plans are set to be cancelled, the poor who were supposed to benefit are paying ever more for less coverage, major insurers are pulling out of the exchanges and leaving the rest of the suckers in the long-predicted “death spiral,” and few seem to expect the law will survive into the next decade. Even the Republican presidential candidates rarely mention Obamacare, however, and even the most conservative news media don’t seem to ask about it.
Most of those Republican candidates also go unmentioned, of course, and judging by all the “Bernie” bumper stickers we’re seeing we think there’s more going in in the Democratic race than you’d know from reading the news. Perhaps when the all the newsmakers and news reporters get back from their vacations we’ll start to find out more about Donald Trump’s latest insulting “tweet” and all the reasons that Hillary Clinton’s latest scandal isn’t really that a big deal, but we can always hope they’ll starting paying attention to other things. In some cases the silence is becoming deafening.

— Bud Norman